Jail & Prison Ministry

Jail and Prison ministries is one of the oldest minsitries in the church, and one of the most important ministries as well. The men and women in prisons and jail who are seeking to have a relationship with Christ often need assistance from the church to minister and guide them. For those of us in the jail and prison ministry, we are fortunate to see the transformative power that the love of Christ has. With the power of Christ and guidance from experienced chaplains and organizations, this ministry can continue to be a light of hope to those seeking a new life.

Recommended Books

For most Christians, prison culture is like visiting a foreign land, and the thought of ministering in prisons to those incarcerated is an intimidating prospect. Prison Ministry will empower any pastor, educator, or lay leader in doing effective prison ministry by providing a thorough “inside-out” view of prison life. Author Lennie Spitale offers a unique and qualifying vantage for writing about prison culture and prison ministry.

All Rise: Ministry with Justice-Involved Women incorporates the actual narratives of justice-involved women, prison administrators, chaplains, volunteers, and ministry workers to create a realistic look at the challenges inherent in change.  The purpose of this text is to give voice to the experiences of these women and improve important ministry outcomes for those faithfully working on their behalf.

If you or a loved one are preparing to be released from prison, the process of re-entry promises to be difficult. But you can do the work to prepare for this major adjustment by developing three essential skills for success: Recognize the Cultural Differences, Remember Your Identity in Christ, and Adapt to Win. Climbing Up offers practical instruction for those who want to be fruitful for the Kingdom on the outside. It also offers instruction for friends and family members who desire to be a source of encouragement for those going through the re-entry process.

Jail Resources

Guidelines for Managing Substance Withdrawal in Jails
This document (flier) by the Bureau of Justice Administration and National Institute of Corrections presents recommendations for effective withdrawal management to save lives and promote the well-being of adults (18 years of age and older) who are at risk for substance withdrawal.  The flier includes a QR code to access the full guidelines. 

A New View of Jails
In March 2020, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) convened a virtual meeting of researchers and practitioners to explore the possibilities that arise from rethinking our view of jails

Rise in Jail Deaths is Especially Troubling as Jail Populations Become More Rural and More Female
This blog by Leah Wang discusses the impact of new data that reveals record high deaths of people locked up in jail, as jail populations have shifted toward smaller, rural jails and growing numbers of women. A lack of accountability and acknowledgement of women’s unique disadvantages all but ensures more deaths to come.

Jail Inmates in 2017
The Bureau of Justice statistics on inmates with information regarding charactericteristics of inmates, facility trends, and Jail turnover with staff.

Correctional Populations in the United States, 2016
This report summarizes data from several Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) collections on populations supervised by adult correctional systems in the United States

Jails in Indian Country 2016
Eighty Indian country jails held an estimated 2,540 inmates at midyear 2016, which was up 1.2% from the 2,510 inmates held in 76 facilities at midyear 2015. Jails operating in Indian country increased from 68 facilities in 2004 to 80 in 2016

Toolkit for Developing Family-Focused Jail Programs
To aid in the field’s understanding of the potential for policy and practice to mitigate this trauma and to improve parent–child relationships, the Urban Institute has collaborated with the National
Institute of Corrections (NIC) to identify promising practices across the country and to highlight a few of those in three practitioner toolkits and a framework document.

Prison Resources

Mail Scanning: A Harsh and Exploitative New Trend in Prisons
This article, written by Leah Wang for The Public Policy Initiative, outlines a policy where prisons are increasingly taking incoming letters, greeting cards, and artwork, making photocopies or digital scans of them, and delivering those inferior versions to recipients.

Recidivism of Females Released from State Prison, 2012-2017
This press release by the Bureau of Justice Statistics includes a link to the actual report.  The Press release heading reveals one finding: Over half of females serving time for a violent offense were arrested within 5 years of release from prison.

Facts About Prisons and People in Prisons
Quick fact sheet about prisons and the people who occupy them

Probation and Parole in the United States
At year-end 2016, an estimated 4,537,100 adults were under community supervision (probation or parole), down 49,800 offenders (down 1.1%) from January 1, 2016

Capital Punishment in 2016
This report includes data on persons under sentence of death, persons executed, and the status of the death penalty at the state and federal level.

Recidivism After Release From Prison 
This 2018 update on prisoner recidivism tracks a representative sample of prisoners released in 2005 in 30 states and chronicles their arrests through 2014. In 2005, those 30 states accounted for 77% of all persons released from state prisons nationwide.

The opportunity of a Lifetime:  Reflections on Link Between Prison and Diaspora Ministries
God is raising up a new supply of workers for the harvest in the most unexpected places.
By Don Allsman, CMCA Advisory Member

Trauma Resources

Moral Injury, Post-Incarceration Syndrome, and Religious Coping Behind Bars
This chapter of a book Lived Religion, Conversion & Recovery, authored by Theo van Willigenburg of Kant Academy reviews moral injury and post-incarceration syndrome as understudied traumas. This chapter analyses the characteristics of the syndromes and investigates religious ways of coping with trauma, by focusing on prison conversions from a “lived religion” perspective.  Access the chapter of the book here >>

Using Trauma-Informed Practices to Enhance Safety and Security in Women’s Correctional Facilities
This document by the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women provides a brief overview of trauma and its effects on women offenders, and specifically defines trauma-informed practices for women’s correctional facilities. It also provides key actions that facility administrators, managers, and staff can take to better align their operational practices with the research on trauma and to create a more trauma-informed facility culture.

Corrections-Trauma Informed Care Infographic
This infographic will give you a more in depth understanding of why the correctional justice system needs to implement trauma informed care.  The document provides links to many relevant resources.

Understanding, Preventing, and Responding to Human Trafficking Podcast
This podcast is from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Human trafficking is an issue without a simple solution, but research on this problem is helping victims and developing tools and information to help better understand, prevent, and respond to trafficking. NIJ Scientist Mary Carlton joins host Josh Mondoro, Communications Assistant at NIJ, for a discussion about this research.  Links to readings and resources are also on the webpage.

Addressing Trauma and Victimization in Womens Prisons
In 2017, the National Institute of Justice funded the Urban Institute—and its partners the Center for Effective Public Policy, the Correctional Leaders Association, and the National Center for Victims of Crime—to conduct a national scan of services and programming within correctional facilities that address incarcerated women’s prior and current trauma and victimization experiences.  As the population of women incarcerated in the US grows, so does the need for services that address trauma and victimization. Given that incarceration can be inherently retraumatizing and many justice-involved women have experienced trauma, correctional facilities are uniquely positioned to serve as de facto victim service providers.

National Recover Month 2019 Toolkit

In 2019, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) celebrates the 30th anniversary of National Recovery Month. Click here to see the list of resources including toll-free numbers and websites where people can find help, obtain information, share experiences, and learn from others.

National Recovery Month 2019 Data Visualizations

5.1 million young adults aged 18-25 had a substance use disorder in the past year. Of the 5.1 million young adults with a substance use disorder, 46.8% had any mental illness in the past year. Click here to see other statistics.


SAMHSA’S Concept of Trauma

The need to address trauma is increasingly viewed as an important component of effective behavioral health service delivery. Click here to read more.


Trauma Annotated Bibliography

This bibliography attempts to offer a compilation of information on trauma-informed care by reviewing general information about trauma as well as focusing on the criminal justice system and corrections (women, adults, and younger people), peer support, and screening/assessment for trauma. Click here to read more.


Seconday Sources of Traumatic Stress and Trauma

Each year more than 10 million children in the United States endure the trauma of abuse, violence, natural disasters and other adverse events. For therapists, child welfare workers, case managers, and other helping professionals involved in the care of traumatized children and their families, the essential act of listening to trauma stories may take an emotional toll that compromises professional functioning and diminishes quality of life. Click here to read more.


Trauma Informed Practice Guide (TIP Guide)

The Trauma-Informed Practice (TIP) Guide and TIP Organizational Checklist are intended to support the translation of trauma-informed principles into practice. Included are concrete strategies to guide  the professional work of practitioners assisting clients with mental health and substance use. Click here to read more.


Complex Trauma in Childeren and Adolescents

The term complex trauma describes the dual problem of children’s exposure to traumatic events and the impact of this exposure on immediate and long-term outcomes. Complex traumatic exposure refers to children’s experiences of multiple traumatic events that occur within the caregiving system-the social environment that is supposed to be the source of safety and stability in a child’s life. Click here to read more.


Trauma Among Youth

A significant body of research has emerged attesting to the fact that trauma exposure and post traumatic stress symptoms are highly prevalent among youth in the juvenile justice system, with rates far exceeding those seen in community samples. Click here to read more.


Trauma Among Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

With rates of arrests for girls in the United States fast outpacing those for boys, the past decade has seen increasing attention devoted to understanding the causes, consequences, and solutions for girls delinquency. Girls now account for approximately 30 percent of the estimated 2.11 million juvenile arrests made each year, and on any given day more than 7,800 girls reside in detention or juvenile corrections facilities in the US. Click here to read more.


Secondary Trauma: The Personal Impact Working With Offenders

Although the field of community corrections has long been recognized as a stressful profession, it has only been recently that traumatic stress was identified as a contributing factor to the taxing nature of the work. Click here to read more.


Caring for the Caregiveer: Avoiding and Treament for the Caregiver

Vicarious traumatization is a term that describes the cumulative transformative effect on the helper of working with survivors of traumatic life events. The symptoms can appear much like those of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but also encompass changes in frame of reference, identity, sense of safety, ability to trust, self-esteem, intimacy, and a sense of control.  Click here to read more.


Trauma Healing Evangelsim Training

Trauma can shatter our faith and beliefs about God. We doubt God’s goodness, power, and love, and our own lovability. Doubts often lead to distorted beliefs becoming the norm. We believe that God must not exist, that God doesn’t care, that we are being punished, and we are shameworthy. Click here to read more.

General Resources

Culturally Responsive Pathways to Peer Programming in Tribal Communities
This report is based on research by Altarum funded with a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Results showed that PRSS (Peer Recovery Support Services) fill a much-needed gap where recovery support services are limited and substance use is pervasive.

Helping Your Loved One Who is Suicidal
This toolkit from SAMHSA is a 12 page guide for family and friends.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder
This document by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a short description,  common signs and treatments of bipoloar disorder.

Understanding Major Depressive Disorder
This document by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a short description and common signs along with symptoms of major depressive disorder.

Measuring and Assessing Recidivism
This evaluation and sustainability resource is provided by RTI International and Center for Court Innovation.  The single page document provides easy to read details surrounding recidivism.

Correctional Populations in the U.S., 2021-Statistical Tables
At yearend 2021, an estimated 5,444,900 persons were under the supervision of adult correctional systems in the United States, a decline of 1% (down 61,100 persons) from yearend 2020. About 1 in 48 adult U.S. residents (2%) were under some form of correctional supervision (incarcerated in prison or jail or supervised in the community on probation or parole) at the end of 2021, down from 1 in 47 in 2020.

Incorporating Peer Support Into Substance Use Disorder Treatment Services
This report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that Peer Support Services (PSS) are an important part of a recovery-oriented system of care (ROSC) and are associated with improved outcomes. Any setting that offers care and support for individuals who have problematic substance use should also offer or arrange for PSS.

Community Justice Today–Values, Guiding Principles, and Models
This report by the Bureau of Justice Assistance/US. Department of Justice Center for Court Innovation provides 6 updated principles of community justice that can support practitioners as they test new approaches and learn new lessons.

Managing Substance Withdrawal in Jails: A Legal Brief
This brief by the Bureau of Justice Assistance describes the scope of substance abuse withdrawal, provides an overview of constitutional rights and key legislation related to substance use withdrawal, and outlines steps for creating a comprehensive response to substance abuse disorders.

Letter Writing Guidelines

Advancing Knowledge to Reduce Gangs and Gang Violence: Perspectives from Researches & Practitioners
On May 12, 2020, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) held a virtual meeting with researchers and practitioners. This report shares participants’ perspectives on the topics discussed.  The report may inform the priorities of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers as they make investments in studying or developing programs to address gangs and gang violence.

Canada’s Religious Landscape
A new Pew Research Center analysis of Canadian census and survey data finds that more Canadians belong to minority faiths than ever before. In addition, the number of Canadians with no religious affiliation has been rising, and attendance at religious services has been dropping.

Facts About Religion in Canada
Here are five facts about religion in Canada, based on Pew Research Center data.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Study
The 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study is based on telephone interviews with more than 35,000 Americans from all 50 states.

Younger Millennials
Religious composition of younger Millennials.

Ministry Resources

Answering the Call
A curriculum equipping incarcerated Christ followers to live focused lives of witness and discipleship. For more information click here.

Crossroads Correspondence courses
The Crossroads mentorship program currently offers thirteen correspondence Bible study courses for people in prison.The courses are designed to help Crossroads students learn more about God and how to follow Him with the help of their mentors

Free Jail/Prison Ministry Resources  This is a listing of free resources provided by many Christian organizations.

Prison Mission Association Free Bible Correspondence Course
Free Bible Correspondence Courses

Alpha and Alpha for Youth
A way to inspire and equip youth to share their faith. Alpha is a 9 week course that creates a space where youth can be excited to bring their friends for a conversation about Jesus.

Journey to Faith: The Five Thresholds | Evangelism
Many people think Jesus is cool, but faith seems abstract and unreachable. We will break this process down into 5 understandable stages, and give you practical advice for how to help others move through each threshold.

Start spiritual conversations/Pray for not-yet believers | Evangelism
Many barriers come between us and our desire to make prayer a natural part of our lives. What do we pray for, and when do we pray?

Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship jail/prison ministry courses
The Story of Hope: Forty strategically selected Bible events, twenty from the Old Testament and twenty from the New Testament, comprise The Story of Hope.
The Way to Joy is a leader-guided foundational Bible study book, intended primarily for use as an evangelistic follow-up discipleship study but is appropriate for any believer beginning to be serious about his or her Christian faith-journey.

Broken Pots Education Ministry
Bible correspondence courses for the incarcerated.

Exclusive Members Content

CMCA members have access to content such as:

  • Jail Toolkits
  • Juvenile Toolkits
  • 5 Facets in Spiritual Formation
  • Bible College Participation & Prison Misconduct
  • Bureau of Justice Statistics: Jail 2016
  • Can we wait 75 Years to cut the prison population in half?
  • Guide for Leading Christian Worship Services
  • Indicators of Mental Health Problems of Inmates
  • Intervarsity GIG Guide (Groups Investigating God) to reach the lost

Become a Member Today!